Dramatic music pumps through Citi Field minutes before the first pitch, accompanied by scoreboard images of Jacob deGrom’s menacing glare or a digitally enhanced clip of Yoenis Cespedes’ bat splintering as he takes a mighty hack. But on Saturday night, it was clear that it’s been a pretty frantic few weeks for whoever puts together this sort of thing.
Gone were the images of Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. Lucas Duda was nowhere to be seen, nor was Rene Rivera, the latest to be sacrificed to the Mets’ fire sale. Instead, it was Brandon Nimmo giving his best Clint Eastwood stare and Kevin Plawecki scowling purposefully at the camera. Rafael Montero had his chance to glower, too.
Suffice to say, things have changed a whole lot in the past three weeks. A lot had changed just in the last 24 hours, as Granderson was dealt to the Dodgers and Rivera departed for the Cubs. But if there is anything to be gained from all this, it was staring back at the fans in the form of Nimmo, Plawecki and Montero.
Montero had his best start of the year in an 8-1 win over the Marlins, Plawecki homered and Nimmo helped ignite the Mets’ seven-run sixth inning. “It kind of felt like my first day in the big leagues again,” Plawecki said.
While Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith have gotten the most hype, it’s becoming clear that the final six weeks of the season could be just as important to several others, too.
That would be Nimmo, Plawecki and yes, even the embattled Montero.
“A lot of circumstances in the past, they can look in the mirror and say, ‘Jeez, all I’m doing is filling in,’ ” Terry Collins said. “With what’s occurred here in the last couple of weeks, I think Kevin Plawecki said to himself that this is his ultimate opportunity to show that he should stay here. And Raffy, he knows with what’s happened this summer to our starting pitching, there’s a possibility of a job here.”
Nimmo, who suffered from limited chances because of the Mets’ former glut in the outfield, now can roam free in the great expanse of centerfield. Plawecki, who was rushed to the big leagues in 2015 and floundered at the plate, finally found his swing in Triple-A this year. He was hitting .328 with 17 doubles and nine homers in 64 games with the Las Vegas 51s.
And Montero (2-8, 5.47 ERA), who so often this season appeared as if he had no business on the mound, looked positively reborn. After a good start against the Yankees, he allowed one earned run, six hits and three walks with five strikeouts in six innings against the Marlins.
He left the game down 1-0 before Matt Reynolds, pinch hitting for him, walked in the bottom of the sixth. Nimmo moved him to third with a single and Reynolds scored the Mets’ first run on a sacrifice fly by Asdrubal Cabrera.
Wilmer Flores hit his 15th homer, a two-run shot, and Plawecki added another two-run blast, his first with the Mets this year. They scored seven that inning, helped by three infield errors.
And let’s give Rosario and Smith their due; they helped turn five double plays, tied for the franchise high. Smith added a solo homer in the eighth.
On Friday night, when Granderson was officially gone and rumors of Rivera’s departure were swirling, the mood in the clubhouse was quiet. “Tough for us,” Collins said before the game of Granderson’s departure. “[But] we gotta get the attention back on the game and go back and play the game right . . . I don’t care whose name is on the uniform, this is the big leagues.”
For one night, those names were Nimmo, Plawecki and Montero. And at least for last night, it was enough.